For most writers, writing a book is the simple part. The difficulty lies in marketing. With ‘The Ickabog,’ J.K. Rowling shows us how innovative this process can be.

Image of the book cover for The Ickabog by J. K. Rowling.
‘The Ickabog’ by J. K. Rowling: UK edition.

Why is it important to create buzz for books? Buzz translates into book sales. Authors need to develop strategies to market their books.

It’s a necessary evil, even if you are J. K. Rowling. The author is synonymous with introducing a love of reading amongst children. Her Harry Potter series captured the imagination of children around the world. But she still needs to market her books to generate sales.

What is ‘The Ickabog’?

The story is of a mythical, fearsome monster. The image is an illustration of a book, with a dragon next to it and a castle in the background.
The story is of a mythical, fearsome monster.
Image by Mystic Art Design from Pixabay.

In early 2020, J. K. Rowling announced that she was working on another children’s book, “The Ickabog”. It is a story set in the Land of Cornucopia, ruled by the gullible, but beloved, King Fred. Fred’s ineptitude creates an opportunity for his allies to wreak havoc in the kingdom. They use the mythical Ickabog to create fear in the land and subject its people to tyrannical rule. They reduce the once-prosperous kingdom to poverty. It is up to the brave children in Cornucopia to unveil the truth.

According to the author, she first drafted this book for her two younger, pre-school children more than a decade ago. She recently revised the book with their inputs. Its target reading audience is between ages 7-9, although it is also suitable for ages up to 12.

In today’s COVID-confined world, authors and publishers have to look at novel ways to sell books. J. K. Rowling’s marketing strategy for “The Ickabog” is just that. She used Twitter and “The Ickabog” website as tools to create significant buzz for the book. These tactics are the core of her marketing strategy.

She Released a Few Chapters Online Each Week

One tactic to create buzz is to release free chapters of your book online.
One tactic to create buzz is to release free chapters of your book online.
Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels.

In early May 2020, the author introduced her new book, “The Ickabog”, on Twitter and other social media. She announced that she would release free chapters from this book online each week. There was a very positive response from parents and children alike. Parents downloaded these free chapters once it became available from 26 May 2020.

The timing of the release of these chapters was fortuitous. In most parts of the world, COVID restrictions confined children to their homes. Reading free chapters from a world-famous, best-selling author, helped to relieve child boredom.

Made available around the world, the installments proved very popular. The free online release kept children coming back each week for the next installment. Translated into 26 languages, there are early signs that “The Ickabog” will become another international bestseller.

The benefit of this strategy is that it creates a loyal following of young readers. Young readers who have been reading this book from the first chapter will want their own completed versions of the book. The books will be available as e-books, physical copies, and audiobooks. J. K. Rowling has already, with outstanding success, pre-sold “The Ickabog.” The free chapters online created a pre-launch buzz for the book.

She Introduced an Illustration Competition

An illustration competition can create buzz for your book. The image is of an illustration of a cat.
You can introduce an art competition to create buzz for your book.
Image by DavidRockDesign from Pixabay.

When announcing the release of free chapters of the book, the author also announced an illustration competition. The competition was open to readers under 12 years. They could submit their best interpretations of the characters in the book.

Children from all over the world submitted their art. As did older fans! According to the website, there were about 18 000 submissions! I followed the submissions on Twitter, and the artwork was stunning. It was enlightening to read a brief story behind each drawing. Local publishers in each country ran their own competitions for this book.

The US edition of “The Ickabog” will feature winning illustrations from Canada and the US. The UK edition will feature illustrations from the UK, Republic of Ireland, India, Australia, and New Zealand. Other countries’ publications will feature illustrations from their own regions.

This was an effective and engaging strategy. The key benefit is that it brought young readers into the creative process. Imagine the excitement of a young child who sees their illustrations in a published book. This already created an extra buzz for the book.

She Directly Engaged With Her Readers

Another tactic to create buzz is to engage directly with your readers. The image is of a woman typing on her computer.
One tactic to create buzz for your book is to engage with your readers.
Photo by Startup Stock Photos from Pexels.

J. K. Rowling reviewed every illustration submitted on Twitter. She addressed the child, not the parent, in her response. This is a brilliant strategy because it made her young readers feel seen and heard. Her readers will treasure her exchanges with them for years to come.

It’s also essential to ensure that you, the author, are genuine in your interactions. The author herself responded to every submission. J. K. Rowling always comes across as warm and authentic in her communications. She expressed appreciation of, and praise for, the children’s submissions.

Direct engagement with your readers takes time and effort. By doing so, J. K. Rowling created a buzz for “The Ickabog.” The results were twofold: she gained a loyal following amongst a new set of readers and parental appreciation. A happy child makes a happy parent! This can translate into book sales and create goodwill for future books on offer.

There are many valuable lessons from J. K. Rowling’s marketing strategy for “The Ickabog.” Create buzz for your book by engaging with your potential audience upfront. If possible, make your readers a part of the creative process. These tactics can lead to increased book sales. I am sure that “The Ickabog” will be another best-seller for the author who did all the hard work upfront. The book release is 10 November 2020. All royalties from the book will go to vulnerable groups affected by COVID-19.